Monday, 29 September 2014

Hobbnobbing with the famous!!

Mad about Singapore

To celebrate Singapore's 49th birthday @instaSG (instagrammers Singapore) asked instagrammers to post a shot to sum up Singapore through a picture.

11,000 pictures were hashtagged and 100 were selected as winners. Drum roll friend and fellow instagrammer  @louisejraggett was one of the top 100. Woohoo!!!! Applause and cheering commences......

Her photo of an HDB decorated in the red and white of the Singapore national flag sums up Singapore's 49th celebrations perfectly. 

So today we popped down to the exhibition, which is showing now at ION ORCHARD, B4 ION STATION daily from 10:00-21:00 until 1st October. 

Shockingly the young lads didn't recognise my now famous friend, not even when she stood posing in front of her photo!! Too busy chatting with each other. But at least I was there to bow and ask for her autograph.... Before a quick trip for lunch to the food court and a look around Marks and Spencer sale section... Well she's not too famous to miss a bargain!!

"The Great One" in front of her masterpiece! Doesn't she look comfortable with her new found status as one of the worlds 'A' list celebs :)

If you want to follow an award winning instagrammer you can do so via @louisejraggett on Instagram. 

Friday, 26 September 2014

Yixing Xuan Teahouse

Along with a group of friends I visited one of just 10 tea houses still operating in Singapore. Situated at 30 Tanjong Pagar rd, close to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, in Singapore's Chinatown. 

Vincent Low is the owner, whose previous reincarnation was as a coffee drinking banker, who decided to change his life, he trained all about tea in China and gave us a very informative, clear, enthusiastic and knowledgeable talk all about tea. 

There is just 1 tea, did you know that? Well I guess most people do, camellia sinensis, but did you know from this one plants comes just 4 types of tea, yes just 4! all the others are either not true teas but from other plants, flowers and herbs, whilst the teas that most of us are used to are blends with "flavourings/oils" added ie lapsang souchong, Earl grey, Jasmine etc etc 

The 4 teas are 'white' 'green' 'oolong' 'black'

The best, the purest, the healthiest and of course the most expensive is the 'white' I have to admit although a big tea drinker I had never tried white tea before and to be honest it didn't grab me, perhaps it was just too delicate for my heathen taste buds.

The teas are good for your blood and are packed with antioxidants and polyphenols, cancer fighting properties. But, be warned, don't add milk or sugar as it nullifies the benefits! 

Mr Low explained how the supermarket teas are not as good as those from tea shops, as they're older and therefore blacker in colour and bitter to taste. He explained which part of the bush the leaves were picked from for each of the teas, the tip for the white down to the stem and leaves picked mechanically and then heated and oxidised for the black tea. 

White - this is hand picked from the tips and is air dried hence it keeps most of its colour. It is covered in very fine hairs and when water is poured over them, it should be at a maximum of 75 degrees, never use boiling water.

Green - I have this every morning :) Again the top leaves are picked but this time instead of air drying they are quickly dried either by oven, in a pan or steam dried. 75 degrees again is the maximum the water should be to keep the taste.

Oolong - There are a vast array of Oolong teas. This tea is made by rolling the leaves which allows it to oxidize with the air and darken. Its then pan dried and rolled again. Because of the different processes and time variations this is why there are many Oolongs. Mr Low sells his own called Beauty of the East.

Black - A stronger tasting tea, this is due to the fact that is is picked, dried out completely and then rolled, afterwards it is heated.

Pu-Er - This is the tea you will see in wrapped discs of solid tea. The leaves have been aged. The tea is from China and is reportedly full of health giving benefits. But we warned - use boiling water on this tea to kill any possible "nasties"

We were then given a demonstration in tea pouring and the different size teapots, so tiny compared to what I'm used to in the West. The water is poured onto the leaves not once, but preferably twice and the water poured away before the tea is ready to drink. It is then poured into a small upright cup, to allow you to smell the aroma, before then pouring into a tiny cup for drinking. 

Throughout the presentation we were given the opportunity to smell the different teas, before we then enjoyed a Tim sum lunch where we sampled the different teas, white, green, oolong and jasmine. 

All in all a thoroughly enjoyable and informative couple of hours. I would certainly recommend a visit here. Thanks to my friends L and R for the use of their photos as well as those of mine :) 

All the details can be found here

Monday, 22 September 2014

F1 and Robbie Williams come to town!

Images of a fabulous weekend 

OK its Monday afternoon on the 22 September 2014 and I am just about recovered from my manic weekend. I'm getting too old for 3 late nights in a row, but what a fantastic weekend it has been :)  19th - 21st September saw Singapore celebrate their F1 night time Grand Prix which first started in 2008, with all the glitz and glamour that comes when this bandwagon rolls into this lil ol'town.

Oh I've seen some sights! the good and the beautiful, the rich and uber uber rich, have been in town and have been out showing themselves. The amount of alcohol that's been drunk and the tons of food just doesn't bear thinking about, they even ran out of my prosecco!! horror! And apart from a few westerners that had consumed too much of the grape juice on Saturday night, everything seemed to run like clockwork - what else would you expect in Singapore. The Stewards and greeters couldn't have been more helpful and polite and as we all left Sunday, after the race they waved and wished us well, one even shaking my hand. OK they've been trained to do this, but praise where its due they deserved our thanks.

MBS lit up.
I admit Saturdays highlight for me wasn't the qualifying but of course, along with thousands of others, it was Robbie Williams singing and entertaining us on the Padang. Just as he began his first few lines of his first song "Let me entertain you" Singapore's weather does what it does best, a 2 hour tropical thunderstorm! Within seconds we were all drenched including Robbie himself, but did he falter? did he pull the plug? no, he showed us what a true entertainer he truly is and put on an amazing show, in fact the weather just added to it. With torrential rain, mud, thunder and vertical lightning adding to the light show, we had the time of our lives. Unlike Glastonbury it was still hot, damn hot! or was that just the effect Robbie had on us all :P  Sorry hubby, love you really but come on it is Robbie sigh!!! xx

Sunday saw the race itself and we arrived early afternoon to see the Porsche race, the drivers parade and wander around the stalls and of course sip a few beers. The Singapore haze descended late afternoon, with an acrid smell in the air and giving an early November fog like scene to Marina Bay. For non Singaporeans the "haze" is in fact smog! Blown over a few times a year from burning of crops and rain forests in Indonesia.

The "haze" giving an eerie light
Lewis Hamilton was pole and he didn't let us down, apart from a few laps after a pit change very close to the end, he led the way the whole time. Coming over the line to win in magnificent style. A great weekend for Great Britain - Friday it stays Great Britain with Scotland voting to stay in the UK, Robbie on Saturday and a Brit winning on Sunday, what more can we wish for?

So below are a few photos just to highlight a super weekend had by us. Not great photos, many are from my phone and I've pinched a few from my hubby and friend, but I hope it gives a feel for the event.  Now to have a rest and recover

The clouds descended
That didn't stop our enjoyment of Robbie

Sea Sick Steve, a favorite with hubby

hubby and L not letting the weather ruin the spirit :)
Ahhhh looking at Robbie :)

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The Southern Ridges. WALK

I remember when I first heard we were moving to Singapore, we read many of the travel books, trying to see what was here, what to fill our spare time with. Having grown up with our holidays involving predominately walking in the picturesque national parks of the UK, I was keen to visit the Southern Ridges and have indeed now been numerous times in different directions, start and finish points and in all weathers. OK it may not be the craggy mountains and deep valleys I'm used to, but on this tiny island it's a small haven and in 30 + degree heat the short hills certainly make you puff!!

As I mentioned there are several start points but for the purpose of this post I shall start in the west and finish walking down the Marang trail ending at Harbour Front MRT. 

The southern ridges are, as stated, a coast hill ridge that runs 10km along the southern edge of Singapore and are split into different parks and walkways. In the west lies Kent Ridge park and although some guides say you can start the walk at West Coast Park through Clementi Woods and up into Kent Ridge, a major portion of this is along the road, therefore the general consensus is to start (or finish) at Kent Ridge. Starting positions can be from Haw Par Villa MRT, walking up a steep winding road to the top of the park or alternatively Kent Ridge MRT, where a short walk through the Science Park brings you into the base of the park by two lakes filled with wildlife. Mynah birds, monitor lizards, kingfishers, turtles and dozen of different species of dragon and damsel fly are just a few that can be spotted here. 

Up to the top of Kent Ridge and you can take a breather, looking out of the sea at the new vast harbour being built, each time we visit more and more land has been "built" and the southern coast lives up to its industrial tag. 

From Kent Ridge you must take the 280 metre long Canopy Walk, a raised wooden walkway above the forest that gives views of Singapore and in the distance sits Canterbury road area with many "back and whites' (Colonial houses)  Each time I come along here I'm greeted by this massive flying black beetle, which I've affectionately named the "flying tank", how it takes off and stays in the air I don't know, it really doesn't look like it was built to fly. At the end of the walk sits Reflections at Bukit Chandu. A small museum housed in another old black and white. Entrance is just $2 for non Singaporeans. Singaporeans and PRs get in free. The museum is all about the Singapore 1st and 2nd Malay Regiment and the defence of Bukit Chandu and Pasir Panjang. The terrible bombing and battle fought by the 2nd Battalion on 13 Feb 1942, just 2 days before the British surrendered Singapore. A small but interesting place, well worth a visit, especially if you have older parents and relatives visiting. A kindly uncle always seems to be on hand, eager to show you everything. 

From Bukit Chandu and the Canopy Walk we walk down a zig zag path to the bottom of the ridge line into Hort Park, a 23 hectare park containing what is described as a "one-stop gardening hub", specializing in education and research. It was opened in December 2007. Refreshments are available here and many families bring their children to enjoy the individual Gardens that are in show here, you can even get married here! Walking out of Hort park you pass through the Floral Walk and on most visits you will be able to see many sunbirds.

You now come to the busy Alexander road and Alexander Arch bridge, where if you wish you can turn right and walk down the road to end your walk at Labrador MRT or indeed pass down Berlayer Creek and explore Labrador Park nature reserve and back along Keppel Bay (another individual walk we've completed several times) However, we're walking the length of the Ridges today so, we cross over Alexander arch "Gateway to Nature" a large 80 metre metal bridge designed to represent an open leaf, its lit at night between 19:00 - 0:00 with changing coloured bulbs. 

The bridge takes you on the metal raised walkways of the Forest Walk that zig zag over the forest and up to Telok Blangah Hill. As you walk above the treetops of "Adinandra Belukar" secondary rainforest, we have spotted laughing thrushes, drongos, Koels, Golden Orioles, other birds, squirrels. You will again pass by a row of black and white colonial houses. 

At the end of the walkway on Telok Blangah hill, take the road right, then left up a short steep stretch, you have now arrived on top of the Terrace Garden, with stunning views over the city. This is Victorian style ballustraded terrace garden, planted with vibrant coloured bougainvilleas. 

From here it's a short stroll to the architecturally stunning Henderson Waves Bridge. The 274 metre long bridge links Telok Blangah hill to Mount Faber and sits 36 metres above ground, making it the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore. 

You have now reached Mt Faber park, with various pathways through the forest to the top, where it says you can see a 360 degree view of Singapore (perhaps if you cut some trees down) having said that still some good views and spot the small merlion that's there.

A little further on and you reach Jewel Box where you can take the cable car across to Sentosa. A small number of shops and caf├ęs are here, if you need refreshment, before the last stretch of the walk, down off the ridge via the Marang Trail. It's down hill all the way here, on mainly wooden steps, passing by a few more black and whites and where we've spotted several golden orb spiders. 

At the bottom as you come out of the trees and with Harbour Front MRT in front, look carefully to your left and you should be able to spot a Malay tomb and some graves stones, some dating back to 1866. There was once a Malay Kampong here called Kampong Marang.

As I said this is just one way to enjoy and walk the ridges, but there are various computations that can be explored. Take a wander and enjoy, OK it's not wild, barren and at no time do you forget you're in Singapore, as everything is manicured and well kept, but it's still good to get out, see some wildlife and stretch those legs :)